Three Tips for Balanced Social Media Use as a Writer

If you’re a writer, and especially if you’re a self-published writer, you really can’t afford to get by without a social media presence. It’s not just enough to sell your books; you have to sell yourself, and social media is by far the primary way of doing so.

Of course, just because all of us have to be using social media doesn’t mean all of us are good at using it, so a lot of you are probably wondering: how do I best present myself and my work through this platform? Does one have to come at the expense of the other?

We’re so happy you asked. Here are three tips for making sure your internet life is balanced with your writing and personal lives.

  • Don’t just be a marketing vehicle; be a person.

You’re an author publishing in a professional market—you want to sell your books. Wanting that isn’t remotely selfish or unfair; you’re an artist, but you’re also a businessperson attempting to earn a living from your work. That’s just the way the world works. So marketing your writing isn’t at all something you should be afraid to do.

That said—be careful not to let your social media account/s become nothing but a marketing vehicle.

People follow an author’s social media for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest of these reasons is that your readers want to able to see you as a person. They want to be able to take a look at what lies behind the curtain, to bring a certain humanity to the author that the author’s books alone can’t. In short, they want to be reminded that authors are people too!

If all you do on your social media accounts is market your books, that aspect of your readers’ desires won’t be met. Rather, they’ll see you as nothing but a vehicle for marketing your own work, which could come off as disappointing or, at worst, cold and corporate. Remember, the people who follow you online are most likely already fans of your work! You don’t need to sell it to them from scratch.

Rather, allow yourself space to be yourself online. Post about whatever awesome book you happen to be reading this week, interact with fans, upload the occasional picture of your pet cat. You can err too far in this direction, of course—you do want to be promoting your work a fair amount of the time, even to readers who are already familiar with it. But if you can balance self-promotion with self-expression, readers will have a much better perception of you.

You’re also more likely to snag a new audience—people may follow you despite being completely unfamiliar with your books, simply because they’re heard you’re a great social media presence. Then, when they see your marketing intermingled in other posts, they’ll get curious and decide to pick up one of your books. And the cycle continues . . .

  • Third-party posting services are your friend.

Maintaining steady, consistent social media activity is vital to your online presence. Post too little, and you’re less likely to get followers; post too much, and you’re more likely to find yourself unfollowed; vacillate between the two and you get the worst of both worlds. A moderate, regular posting schedule is the ideal.

The problem is, maintaining a regular social media schedule is also very distracting. It’s hard to concentrate on writing your next book when you’re also worrying about what to post next on Facebook or Twitter, especially if you have a deadline for that post coming up. Focus too much on marketing or fan interaction, and you’ll have nothing to market or to interact with fans about.

So what’s a busy author to do? Never fear—third-party posting services to the rescue.

Services like Buffer or TweetDeck are fantastic for maintaining a consistent posting rate while also setting aside plenty of time for writing. You can write a bunch of social media posts in one half-hour stretch early in the morning or late in the evening, enter all of them into your calendar, and set them to post at certain times throughout the day. You can schedule them days, weeks, or even months in advance, then just set the app aside and go on your merry way, assured in the fact that your social media will now be handled without your even having to touch a computer or smartphone. Have a summer-themed post that’s occurred to you just as September is hitting its stride? Just go to Buffer, enter your text in the slot for June 23 next year, and forget it.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely entirely on this sort of service to get things done for you—you want to interact with your followers rather than simply let an app run your pages, and there are some posts that will only work in a certain context, after which the window for uploading them will be forever closed. But for those of us who like social media and writing books, a robot managing our lives for a while is a very welcome idea.

  • Market subtly, market constantly.

Our first point aside, one of the chief purposes of social media is to market your work. Maintaining a wonderful internet presence is great, but it won’t matter a whole lot if you aren’t actually selling your art. The question is, how do you do it in a way that’s constant while still remaining tasteful?

The cover photo, a feature of both Facebook and Twitter, is one of the best possible inventions for this purpose. Its dimensions are just about that of a real-life billboard, making it the perfect spot to upload an advertisement for your current or forthcoming work. And while it’s the biggest thing on your page, it’s also hidden behind your profile picture, which lends it a paradoxically unobtrusive vibe. Readers won’t be focusing on your cover photo—they’re interested in your content, not your window dressing—but they can’t avoid looking at it, and a skillfully placed piece of marketing will stick with them even if it’s not the thing they care about when they open your page.

Another excellent way to market without looking like you’re constantly marketing is to take advantage of the “pinned post” option. If you choose to pin a post to the top of your social media feed, it will be the first post that shows up regardless of how many other, more recent posts you’ve made since then. If you pin a post that advertises one of your books, it’ll be the first thing that followers see when they visit your page, but it won’t come off as crass commercialism because it’s immediately followed by your recent posts on all manner of other topics. Like the cover photo, it will remain in the readers’ heads even though it isn’t what they were seeking when they clicked on your page.

Finally, keep a carefully balanced ratio of promotional posts to “real” posts. A good example ratio is one marketing post for every four posts related to other matters. If you maintain this percentage, your social media will still be strongly slanted toward you as a person, but you’ll also be constantly self-promoting without the appearance of constant self-promotion. Sneaky, right? This way, you and readers can interact as human beings, you can promote your books at a steady rate, and everyone is happy.

Any suggestions and/or questions regarding author social media presence? Let us know!

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